Ok, so I ventured to Crete last year with a girlfriend and I’ve finally got round to sharing the finer details with you. After several friends and colleagues travelled to Crete this year I found myself giving them all really similar information on some of the places me and my best gal discovered while we were there.
Crete is a not-so-small island located in the Aegean Sea and is the largest island in Greece. To give you a rough idea of it’s size, it’s 260km long… so it’s BIG. And with a dramatic landscape of mountainous terrain set against beautiful beaches, it’s a must for anyone seeking a bit of R&R adventure style.
We discovered these gorgeous places by hopping in a car and exploring the island on 4 wheels. We based ourselves in Rethymnon, a small beach town nestled between Chania and Heraklion on the north west side of the island. And yes, it’s quite toursity. But here’s the secret guys… staying somewhere frequented by the tourist crowd is great because of the local amenities, cheaper options for accommodation, and many options of restaurants for those evenings when you want to stroll to dinner and back after a few glasses of wine. You don’t need to worry about the hoards of people sprawled across the beach during the day because by 10am you’re all like ‘see ya!’ headed off to the hot spots which I’m guna tell you all about.
The Spots We Visited in Crete
Although we stayed in a super touristy stretch of beach, all of our pre-holiday Pinteresting had got us hyped on the awesome places that this Greek island has to offer. It was actually thanks to an incredibly friendly guy who ran the apartments we stayed in, along with a few sessions zooming around on Google Maps that we ended up finding most of these places. Along with Pinterest of course…
If you’re headed to Crete, be sure to check out some of these spots including lesser known beaches, lakes and a not-to-be-missed taverna.
GOOD FOR: Yoga, a picnic and a float around
Try yoga with a view, take a picnic spend the whole time floating around on your fave inflatable at this freshwater lake. You can even rent a pedal boat or kayak to explore the waters if you need to up the activity. The lake is sign posted from the road so we useda few local signs along with Google Maps to get us there. You’ll wind up in a small car park then just need to take a short walk down to the lake from there.
GOOD FOR: Dreamy turquoise waters and seeing what all the fuss is about
It’s the picture perfect beach. A vast stretch of white sand linking the small island of Balos to the mainland and a lagoon with water so clear that it almost doesn’t even look turquoise. But it is the place everyone heard about already, and lots of people venture to Balos every day to see what the fuss is all about. I can confirm it’s worth the ferry trip along with all those other curious travellers. There’s not much around, so take a picnic and a good book. You should probably go, even if it’s just to see why everyone else wants to…
GOOD FOR: Softcore rock jumping, snorkling and a short hike up and down the cliff side to get there
The picture says it all though right? That small rock to jump off, those overhanging cliffs and the colour of that sea? And the best bit is you have to walk down a cliff side to get there (and then back up after you get all drunk on cliff jumping and inflatable swan playing). There’s even a little cafe down there so you can grab some lunch and rehydrate if you need to (you will need to…). The guy who ran the cafe wanted to buy our inflatable swan off us, I said yes, my bestie said no. Luckily, the sale didn’t go through. We didn’t talk much in the car ride home.
If you love active travel and balancing that out with relaxing holiday vibes, get yourself to Preveli beach… preferably with an inflatable swan in tow.
GOOD FOR: The element of surprise!
The menu is… THERE IS NO MENU! And that is the BEST bit about this place! Renowned among the locals for good food and a friendly atmosphere, you won’t see hoards of tourists in this family-run taverna. And you only know what you’re about to let your stomach into once it arrives at your table. Awesome right?! Refueling after any adventure filled day at Taverna Alekos is a must for explorer types.
GOOD FOR: Getting naked in the some seriously turquoise sea
I won’t lie, there was nudity involved… but when it comes to secret beaches in Europe, you’ll just have to accept you might just wind up on a nudist stretch of sand. Don’t worry, there’s probably approximately 10 people on the beach. And if you feel like unleashing your inner wild goddess, just join the crowd. It’s liberating, I promise.
Panoramic Cafe Taverna
GOOD FOR: Eyeing up the turquoise fringed coast below and sipping on a Greek coffee
We stumbled upon this place when adventuring over the hills to the south side of the island in search of Peristeres. It was one of those days where the Greek adventure Gods just heard our call. We said out loud that we would LOVE a coffee right now. And about 10 minutes later, this place popped up on the side of the road. Naturally, we stopped. And enjoyed the views, both with and without a pair of binoculars, seeing if we could spy and bits of coast below that looked like undiscovered rock jumping spots. We did find a road, tried to drive it, then realised it was a 4×4 kinda road and ended up in hot sweats trying to reverse down a steep dirt road. Just go to the naked beach instead guys…
The facts you’ll want to know
- What not to miss – Greek coffee! Don’t miss it, we were sure to make a Greek coffee a part of our day everyday adventure. When the waiter asks you if you want you coffee with sugar or without, just know that if you ask for it with sugar, they will add it in during the heating process… and they add in pretty generous amounts. So unless you have a real sweet tooth, you might want to decline that offer.
- What we missed – Elafonsi – we decided to hunt out a secret beach that day instead after being warned about how touristy it is. It looks incredible though, right! So if you have time and don’t mind the crowds, be sure to explore this little slice of awesome too. Samaria Gorge NP – again we only had 5 days and we ended up chasing turquoise waters with an inflatable swan, meaning that we didn’t have the time or gear to get here either. We drove through a small part of it and it really does look epic. Tourism agencies offer tours here so my all important adventure advice here is to get the early… like when it opens… like before the local guide turns up with everyone ever.
- North V South – the beaches in the south tend to be clearer water and generally way more dreamy than the long stretches that make up the coastline in the north so be sure to explore.
- Sunset – is totally dreamy and best enjoyed on the north or east of the island.
- Adventure Fact – you can get a ferry from Crete to Santorini so if you’ve been dying to go to Santorini for ever be sure to factor in some time to catch that boat and spend a night or two there.
The facts you’ll need to know
- Getting to Crete from the UK – we travelled with easyJet from London Gatwick, but flights are widely available from other airports in the UK as well as international connections via Athens. Make sure you do your research on a site like Skyscanner to get the best deals. Flight prices to get really steep during the peak season (July – mid September) so be sure to book early or book outside the peak season.
- Accommodation – heaps of options (and I mean heaps). We booked via Booking.com and based ourselves in Rethynmon. I usually love staying in hostels and quirky little Airbnbs so this simple apartment was different but perfect. There is an old town in Rethynmon (which is BEAUtiful) but it’s slightly more pricey staying by the beach on the Rethynmon seafront is a bit more spacious and cheaper. Easily about 1 to 2 miles walking distance of the old town you’re still within easy reach of cultural delights the old town has to offer.
- Car Rental – again, heaps of options here! Do your research, but it really is super easy. We got ourselves a little Fiat 500, which fitted in me, my bestie, and the inflatable swan. It was perfect.
- What to pack – well, that’s easy really. Bikini, bikini, bikini, inflatable animal of your choice, a good pair of sandals, sunscreen and a couple of outfits to wear in the evening, plus your favourite activewear for any land-based sweat sessions like yoga or hiking
Have you been to Crete?
Where did you go? I’d love to know!
Or if you have any questions, please feel free to ask… i might know the answer, i might not, but i’ll try to point you in the right direction.
Stay wild adventurers!
with love, L x
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